Time To Improve Your Business With A Half Year Review

So the sixth month has passed and we are just over half way through the year. Although a review of progress can be done at any time it seems appropriate to do one now. So here is a process I went through over the past couple of days. I hope you find it useful.

Step 1 Progress To Date

You should have a set of goals that were due to be achieved by this time of the year. The first step is simply to review how well you have met those goals. What steps were completed, were they completed on time, and how much of each goal was achieved?

You should end up with an honest review of your progress in the first six months of the year. Include how far adrift you are from meeting goals that have not been achieved yet. How many weeks behind, how much content is still to be produced, etc.

Step 2 Two important Questions

That snapshot of reality may lift your spirits or it may inspire disappointment. Whatever your reaction, put those details aside for now and ask yourself the following two questions:

  1. What are the biggest opportunities to grow your business in the next 12 months? There may have been developments since you last considered your action plan. You may now be able to access new resources that open up new possibilities. These changes may mean you could abandon some goals, be more ambitious with others, or consider a change of direction.
  2. What content does your audience need to see to know, like and trust you? This is particularly important if you are solely based online and use social media. Yet your answer can also involve producing blog posts and/or products to help establish your expertise and trustworthiness. Don’t answer in general terms. If you aim to publish more blog posts what topics would work best to increase your audience’s awareness of you, or convince them that you are trustworthy?

Step 3 Your Guiding Sentence

Next try to summarise your main goal for the next 12 months in a sentence. If you need help with this try completing the following:

In the next 12 months I will focus on …

State your main focus and add what benefits you will gain from completing the goal. If you have lost focus in the past six months and your course has drifted away from your goals, reading this sentence should remind you of where you should be heading.

Step 4 Project Ideas

Next list all the projects you currently have underway. Then add any projects you could start in the next six months. Don’t judge how practical or successful they are, just list them. Then compare them with your guiding sentence. Remove from the list any that will not help you achieve your main goal for the next 12 months.

Step 5 Identify Your Roadblocks

Now it’s time to return to your review of the past six months. If you have not met goals consider your journey towards each one. What have been the top problems in reaching the goals? What have been the main roadblocks?

Write down a numbered list of as many roadblocks as you can. The more thorough and honest you are the more helpful the next step will be.

Step 6 List The Solutions

Now you need to brainstorm solutions for the roadblocks and list them. Use a numbered list so that the appropriate solution has the same number as the roadblock it solves.

This step may need some research. Some solutions may mean committing yourself to learning a new technique or putting in more effort to your business. If you are reluctant to invest the time and effort maybe you’ve identified another roadblock.

Step 7 Identify The Best Projects

Once you have completed step 6 it’s time to look through your list of project ideas and identify which ones solve the most roadblocks. The best solutions should be the projects you focus on for the next 12 months.

You may find that you are already working on some of the best solutions while other projects will need to be started and replace ones that are currently in progress.

You may find this process indicates you should drop projects that you are heavily invested in. If you are reluctant to abandon any projects take the time to think through why it would be better to continue with it, even though it has not been identified as one of the best roadblock solvers. If you can’t convince yourself then the project has to go for now, no matter how much you’d prefer to keep it.

Step 8 Plan The Next 12 Months

Having worked through the above steps you should have a short list of projects you will implement in the next 12 months. It’s likely this list won’t exactly match what you are currently doing. Set aside four weeks to make adjustments. In this time aim to close down or complete the projects you are not going to continue with and start planning when and how to implement you first new project.

Your 12 month plan does not have to be detailed right now. Just enough to know when you will start each project during the coming year with time built in to prepare for its implementation. Once you have this outlined the last task is to build in reviews so that you can repeat the above steps at least once every six months.

A mid year review

Time for a mid year review. It’s tempting to make a sweeping statement like ‘no progress’ and quickly hurry on, but if the next six months are to see real improvement I’ll need to come up with something more useful than that.

At one point during the last six months I considered abandoning this blog. It was taking too much of my time. I had realised I needed to get ahead of my posting schedule to free up time for traffic and product creation tasks, but I could not seem to do it on a consistent basis. The blog is established and a hub for what I am trying to build. I decided to persevere, but will review the situation again before Christmas.

February was the tenth anniversary of setting up in business. The web design part has been going well, but the IM side has seen much less progress than I’d hoped. It feels like almost nothing has been achieved in the last 10 years. Of all the projects I’ve started in that decade there are just a couple of pen named ebooks on Clickbank to show for it. Perhaps it’s a reflection of how hard IM is, how difficult it is to get good support and guidance, or if I give in to my darkest thoughts, how lame and incompetent I am at implementing the advice I’ve paid for.

The course I came so close to launching last year is languishing on Amazon S3 and behind a couple of websites. At the moment it’s pretty much abandoned as I’m showing more despondency and caution than courage.

The lesson I’m taking from this is to do lots of testing in small doses instead of investing everything in one large project that has a major impact if something goes wrong.

However I have to move on. See this as a temporary setback, not permanent failure. Make a course correction then adequately resource the amended plan. People in a job will never fail to this extent. But that’s not the only opportunity they miss.

When we are working on a product we look forward to taking the credit, but we should also be prepared to take the blame and ridicule. You need to be on your guard as it is easy to fall into the “Victim Trap” and to blame others, the outside world or outside forces for our own inability to succeed.

We must be strong. It is in failure that we learn and grow most. It is what we do when we fail that matters. We can wallow in self pity and loathing or we can do something about it and take action to improve our lot. It is in the trying that we build character. We must guard against anything diluting our energy for the next project.

So we should embrace our failures, take ownership of them, look at them as a chance to learn so we do not repeat the same mistakes. When we fail, we should Fail Fast and Fail Forward, making a proactive choice to learn from them.

Counting my blessings, I still do not work for a large company or organisation that regards me as a disposable number. I’m not restricted by what I can and cannot do because I have a Boss to answer to. I have a life where I am mostly in charge, no longer reliant, dependent and trapped by a J.O.B. Many would envy me for that foundation. Now it’s about time I restarted building on it.

It’s Time to Review. Don’t underestimate your progress

As we move into the final months of the year it is traditionally the time to review the past 12 months and look ahead to our goals for next year. Sometimes the review process can be a source of disappointment and melancholy, especially if it’s been a tough year. So in this post I want to look at how to approach the review process and spot the positives.

Use your feelings

One of the easiest ways to identify the highlights of your year is to consider your feelings. The highs and lows over the past 12 months will be tied to the emotions you felt at the time and as you review now.

Think about the feelings you wanted to feel at the start of the year, and how you actually felt as events unfolded. When you achieved a goal that was in alignment with what’s important to you, you would have felt energised and inspired. If you failed to reach a target during the year there would have been feelings of disappointment.

Identify progress

One potential problem is the widespread belief in internet marketing that if you are not making money, you are not making progress. This is wrong. If you’re not making money, it either means you have not yet provided enough value or benefit, or it means your message isn’t getting out there. Steps taken towards achieving these two objectives still count as progress.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of considering how far we have fallen short of our goals, and neglect looking back to see how far we have come. If this is an issue, I recommend you take a look at my review of Avoiding the Gap.

Don’t underestimate your progress

As you review your year you should be measuring it against your situation at the start of 2014. This will be easier to do if you have celebrated and recorded your successes on a weekly or daily basis. If you have not been doing this over the past 12 months I strongly recommend you make it a goal for next year.

Remember to include your failures. You can find plenty of quotes online from Bill Gates to Walt Disney about the positive side of failing. Regard failure or underachievement as a learning process and you can add these to the progress you have made this year.

So don’t be modest. There is no reason to discount something if it adds value for your customers or it is a step in the process of providing value.

Planning Your Year Ahead

calendar

In my last post I outlined how you could review this year and plan for the next, producing a list of actions designed to help you reach your targets. Today I want to outline a way to plan the year ahead and ensure you fit in all the actions you want to take.

To do this you are going to create a calendar for next year and use it to manage your activity and keep you on track.

If have a Google account you can use the calendar provided there. This has the advantage that if you have virtual partners in your business it’s easy to share the calendar with other Google accounts. If you work with others in the same physical location it may be best to buy a physical planner. This doesn’t rely on people remembering to login to a calendar and can be placed where everyone can refer to it. I prefer the ones mounted on single fold card that are easier to carry around.

Now although the calendar is based around your online business the first thing you should do is add the time you plan to use for yourself. Holidays, family events and so on. It’s important to put these in first otherwise they can get squeezed out of your year.

Next add networking events you plan to attend and any other events with fixed dates that you want to take part in.

Now add those activities that should be regular events, like blog posting, email marketing, tweeting, using Facebook, etc. Just make a note that these need to be done. Don’t add the topics or themes just yet.

Next you need to address how you are going to make money next year. Many people online seem to set up blogs, Facebook pages and so on and yet do not concentrate on having a means of making money. So, what are you going to sell or promote next year? When will you do this and how will you promote?

Having decided this you can add special events like product launches, special promotions, etc. If possible add any launches in which you intend to act as an affiliate.

Work out the steps in your marketing and put them on your calendar. Start with the deadlines like product launches and work backwards. This will show you when you’ll need to start your advertising campaigns, your affiliate recruitment and so on.

As you plan the campaigns remember to allow for delays. Building in some catch up days often produces a more realistic plan than one that assumes everything will proceed like clockwork. Also don’t plan beyond the first three to four months of the year in great detail. Circumstances and plans can change and overplanning can be a waste of time.

Now you can plan the themes of your blog, Facebook and Twitter content and how to time them so they work best for your marketing. You can even plan website updates and changes to your Facebook cover image. If you aim to have guest bloggers schedule them too so you know when to start approaching people to write for you.

If you want to plan your blog posts and have a WordPress blog you can go to Add plugins and search for ‘editorial calendar’. This is a free plugin and you can even try it out before installing it. Once installed you’ll find it under the Posts menu. The fact you have it installed should encourage you to plan ahead and have an overview of your blog posts.

Lastly remember to schedule reviews and use them to adjust your plan as you take action. I used to review my progress every 2 weeks but often tasks took longer than this and consequently the reviews became rather pointless and depressing as nothing had been completed. I could review monthly, but that produces only 12 reviews per year, which seems a bit sparse to me. I now review every three weeks, but you decide what works best for you. You can do larger reviews every 6 months or quarterly.

Once you’ve worked through these steps you should have an overall plan for next year and a good idea of what you need to do for the first couple of months. The calendar won’t guarantee you’ll achieve all your targets but if used correctly it will make your success more likely.

Was the above useful? Do you already use a calendar to plan your marketing or blogging? If so is there anything you do that you have found particularly useful? I’d be interested to read any comments or feedback on this topic.

This is for You if You Don’t Review

It’s the time of year for reviews. This is usually when we are reminded of what has happened in the last twelve months in the worlds of politics, sport and music. Yet how many of us perform a review of our own?

If this is something you don’t usually do for your business let me suggest the following process.

Firstly you must have some record of the past year to review. I used to be quite poor at keeping track of what I did each week. Eventually I realised it meant I was overlooking my (admittedly modest) achievements. Ultimately this lead to me losing motivation, so I started keeping better records. (Though they could still be better – see below). Now I just go through this year’s desk diary and look at each week and the 3-weekly reviews I do throughout the year.

If your records are less than useful perhaps you could look at when certain files were created or downloaded to get a clearer idea of what you have been doing over the past 12 months.

Use your records to write out a quick summary of your year and then ask yourself the following questions.

1. What did you accomplish? If you set targets at the start of, or during, the year did you reach them?

There were several for me, including starting this blog. I also recorded some videos using Camtasia for the first time and opened a business Paypal account. These may appear to be small steps, but they seemed daunting and troublesome at the time.

2. What were the biggest disappointments during the year?

This may be the easiest question to answer so guard against writing a long, depressing list.

For myself the biggest disappointment is the slow, almost glacial progress I have made putting together a product.

3. what have I learnt? Thinking of the answers to the two previous questions may help you answer this one.

Personally, I realise that I still need to improve how I plan and record my work, and that steps which seem daunting should be done anyway. They often turn out to be nowhere near as difficult as I assume them to be.

The next questions build on your answers so far and look ahead to next year.

4. What results do you want next year? You need to be clear about your destinations if you are to make the most of your footsteps. (Sorry, came over all Confucius there!)

A completed front end product and a new membership site are my main targets at the moment. I don’t have the concept for the site fully formed, but it’s enough to know the general direction I want to take.

Having an idea of the results you want and thinking about your successes and failures this year, try these next questions.

5. What should you stop doing to get the results you want?

6. What should you start doing to achieve the results you want?

7. What will you have to keep doing to get your desired results?

8. Is there anything you should do more of to get the results you want?

Your answers may seem to produce something of a wishlist of actions for next year. The big question now is will you have time to do all the things you plan?

For now just concentrate on answering the first eight questions. In my next post we’ll address this last question by planning your time.

Do you review your year? If so what approach do you take? If not, is the above helpful? I’d be really interested in your comments and feedback as I believe a good review and planning process can have you hitting the ground running in the New Year.